Beck's Back on Track



by Charles M. Young and Bob Blumenthal

Since leading the Yardbirds, in the mid-sixties, Jeff Beck has developed and deserved a reputation for exquisite taste and originality in his guitar playing—delicate and melodic one moment, psychedelic and demented the next, always with perfect tone. He has also developed and deserved a reputation for being obtuse, often quitting tours after a few shows to go home and work on his hot rods. His fans scratch their heads but always await his next work with eager anticipation.

This spring sees the release of two new Beck recordings that should, for once, satiate his audience. The first is Frankie’s House (Epic), soundtrack to a television mini-series about two photojoumalists covering the Vietnam War. Pure instrumental, the 15 cuts here take up where the soundtrack to Apocalypse Now left off. Outside of Jimi Hendrix, who provided the soundtrack to Vietnam while it was happening. Beck conveys the insanity of violence better than any other guitarist: there are many terrifying moments here, either explosive or eerie. What really sets the album apart is Beck’s absorption of traditional koto music from Vietnam and Thailand. Hearing an introspective koto lick in the middle of a blues run, and vice versa, is just about as cool as multiculturalism can get.

Next month, watch for Crazy Legs (also Epic), by Beck and the Big Town Playboys, an English roots rock band. In 17 songs they pay tribute to fifties rocker Gene Vincent and his band the Blue Caps. Beck especially is paying tribute to Vincent’s guitarist Cliff Gallup, whose chops originally inspired Beck to play guitar during his adolescence. If you have any taste for rockabilly, this CD will delight and exhilarate. —C.M.Y.